Report: Tim Duncan faces June 24 deadline to opt in to final year of contract

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Most contract options must be decided by June 30, but teams and players can negotiate earlier dates. For example, Carmelo Anthony faces a June 23 deadline to exercise his early termination option (which he says he’ll do).

Another player with an earlier-than-usual option date: Tim Duncan.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan has until June 24 to notify the team whether he intends to pick up his $10.3 million player option for next season, according to sources familiar with the terms of the contract.

The date still can be moved closer to July 1, sources said, if both parties agree to do so

sources say the Spurs, to this point, are quietly operating under the assumption that Duncan and Popovich will indeed be back next season

The reliable ShamSports.com lists Duncan’s 2014-15 option at $10 million, but as the site accurately notes, the NBA prohibits option-year salaries from decreasing from the prior season. Duncan made $10,361,446 this season.

The NBA ratified Duncan’s contract, anyway. Maybe the league has to just let that stand, or maybe it can force the Spurs to raise Duncan’s option-year salary to equal his 2013-14 salary. It’s unclear.

Anyway, I doubt less than $400,000 makes a difference.

At or near $10 million is a pretty fair salary for Duncan at this point, and he if wants to return, he could just opt in. Or maybe he’d opt out to re-sign for less, giving San Antonio room to sign an impact free agent.

However, this option has little to do with whether Duncan returns. He could easily opt in and then retire later in the offseason, walking away from his guaranteed salary. The option, related to retirement, matters only if Duncan decides to extend the Spurs the courtesy of informing them on his future before opting in. Opting out would give him no more or less flexibility to retire.

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are under contract through next season. (As are Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, Marco Belinelli and Cory Joseph). I suspect everyone will come back for one more run.

Duncan could either opt in or opt out, but if he does the latter, plenty of doors remain open for him to return. It’s just one step in the process.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.